How To Develop Emerging Recognition Leaders in Your Organization

A few years ago, some managers at a particular company reached out to a Rideau colleague of mine and me to have a telephone meeting with them. These were young leaders in the making and were part of this company’s emerging leaders’ program. They wanted to learn more about employee recognition and specifically about our recognition programs at Rideau.

Later, we were invited to attend an on-site meeting at the company head office. There we connected with these managers and their peers from across North America, both face-to-face and virtually.

While they were from various departments and held a variety of positions within the company, it was fascinating seeing the light go on for them, and their asking thought-provoking questions about employee recognition.

Their emerging leader program project required them to seek insights on best practices, creating a recognition strategy, and what programs would work best for their managers and employees.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every organization desired to develop their managers through an emerging recognition leaders’ program?

Potential Emerging Recognition Leaders

Naturally, you must first identify which of your managers would benefit from such an in-depth immersion into employee recognition.

These individuals likely already display a natural inclination to acknowledging their associates and regularly value their contributions in their current roles. Placing them in an emerging recognition leader program might push them out of their comfort zone but be a worthwhile development opportunity.

Develop a decision matrix around criteria such as excellent work performance, exemplary living of organizational values, eagerness shown to learn new knowledge and skills, take on new responsibilities when asked, show good leadership skills and teamwork in working with others. Add other pertinent criteria and check off these criteria alongside the names of your potential candidates.

You can test out a potential candidate by giving them a responsibility related to recognition practices or recognition programs. Your Human Resources department may want to explore a potential new recognition program and understand the cultural fit for implementing now.

Project Development for Emerging Recognition Leaders

Most emerging leadership programs have a project to be complete after or during the delivery of the course curriculum. This project involves a team of participants who have to complete a project together that will benefit the senior leadership team or one leader with a strategic initiative, and in our case here, employee recognition related. 

Projects allow you to evaluate emerging recognition leaders on their growth and development, their ability to show strong collaboration skills with their peers and deliver a positive outcome for the organization. You should design each project to:

  • Create an opportunity for personal growth as an emerging recognition leader.
  • Research and investigate best and next practices with recognition practices and recognition program from outside of the organization—both vendors and benchmarking with similar organizations to their own.
  • Learn to anticipate future recognition needs of the organization and disrupt and reinvent new ways of integrating better recognition practices throughout the organization.
  • Deliver a strategic result with employee recognition programs aligned with the organization’s business and people strategies.
  • Chance to apply all the knowledge and skills learned, the relationships made, back on the job after they complete the assigned project.

These programs require that emerging recognition leaders report to an executive sponsor for the project assigned to the managers. Leaders strive to work with these up-and-coming leaders to help understand the business implications of their assigned project. The team of emerging recognition leaders provide regular feedback to their executive sponsor. 

It is also important to hold feedback sessions with their project peers to learn how they are doing and request input for them on how they can improve. They may also ask other stakeholders benefitting from the project outcome for constructive criticism when the project is done.

An emerging recognition leader project should show how each leader manages and leads a group of people. Their overall goal is to deliver a measurable impact with their recognition project.

Benefits of Becoming a Recognition Leader 

Developing an emerging recognition leader program helps position employee recognition as a driver of business growth and development. Emerging recognition leaders must learn and understand business operations and strategy. 

By design, the assigned projects help individuals learn organizational skills, teamwork and management skills, along with networking abilities as they work with managers across the organization. All of this to ensure effective implementation of recognition skills and programs.

Emerging recognition leaders must have sufficient business acumen to see how employee recognition will impact the organization’s strategic goals and how to calculate a Return on Investment from recognition.

Developing an emerging recognition leader program provides valuable education and related work experience for each candidate. Looking at your roster of managers and who is a potential emerging recognition leader is just one more way of elevating the importance of employee recognition in your organization.

Recognition Reflection: Are their managers in your organization that would benefit from an emerging recognition leaders’ program?

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